Fear and Dreaming

Three months, that’s all. That’s all that’s left between me and the fulfillment of my oldest and dearest dream, between me and a promise I made to myself when I was very, very young, between me and the first time ever that I see a world beyond the Wide Brown Land that I was born in.

I’m going overseas for the very first time. I can’t wait! I’m going to America!

Now, to fully appreciate the enormity of this you’ve got to know a few things about me, and about the thinking that happens down here. First of all is this: I’m from Tasmania. Know where that is? It’s a little island off the coast of Mainland Australia. Yes, it exists (I know this because I live there). It’s very pretty, it’s rather small, and pretty much everyone who’s born here, at least for a season, thinks/dreams/talks about what it’ll be like when they leave.

I was a lucky kid, because back in the 80s when airline travel was hugely expensive I still got to go to the mainland once every couple of years or so. I kept all my boarding passes, airline refresher towelettes, napkins, you name it, if it had the airline logo on it I brought it home. I adored traveling. When I was old enough to get an atlas for school I pored over it, looking at all the countries that, when I was old enough, I would go to, and wondered how big my collection of airline paraphernalia would get, and I’d plot with a ruler how far north I’d been each time.

Not very far. North became my god, my dream, my ultimate. I’m from Tasmania. Check that out on a map. Now look up about five centimeters to the very bottom of mainland Australia. Not very far north at all, really. I kept dreaming.

Life happened, as it does, and by the time I was at the age when all my friends packed up for their big overseas adventures I stayed home and stewed in silent jealousy and practiced my best fake smile when well-meaning people told me “your time will come!”.

My time has come. Three months. Twelve weeks is all, and I’m sure that by the end I’ll be so sick of airline paraphernalia that I’ll never want to travel again.

But…

Yesterday I decided for the third time that it wasn’t a good idea to go, that it was just not safe, that things would happen that I’d have no control over and I’d be stuck and lost and foreign in a place where people say words like “trash can” and “root beer” and they wouldn’t understand me when I tell them how desperate I’m feeling. This has happened before. Not the lost and foreign and desperate (well, unless you count my visit to Canberra), but the I-can’t-go. The first time it was transport. Too hard. Wrong side of the road. Ditch the whole idea. The second time it was guns, and the third time it was tarantulas (or, if you like, trianchulas)Image).

Now, here’s the other thing you need to know about me: I’m fearless. Nothing scares me. I’ll try anything, and most things I have, and sometimes more than once. Throwing caution to the wind and stepping out and doing it anyway is one of the things I’m best at in life, for better or worse. Except, it seems, when it comes to staying with friends in English-speaking countries in comfortable houses in the suburbs. Why, tell me, is this scaring me so much?

I don’t think it’s just me (Not the America thing, there are a few hundred million Americans who think America is the most normal place on earth, even when they do say “trash can” and “root beer”). I think that deep inside all of us is a fear of stepping into our deepest dreams. I don’t know why.

The only person who’s trying to sabotage my dreaming is me. I think it’s time to stop. And, in three months, it will be time to go. There will be guns, and possibly even spiders. I will see trash cans and drink root beer and be misunderstood and overtired, and probably cry more than I want to, and on the whole, it will be everything I ever dreamed, and then I’ll come home and never be the same again. Dreams do that to you, don’t they?

Spider, spider, burning bright

When I was a kid every spider was a big one, and every really huge spider was a Trianchula. To say it right you’ve got to say it in an Aussie accent, hold your nose, and screw your face up at the second syllable, okay? Tri-AN-chula. As in “Muuuuuum, there’s a triANchula in the car! Get rid of that TRIANCHULA!”

I remember my first one. It was orange. I was loud.

Sometime, around the age of six, somebody told me that it wasn’t a trianchula, actually, it was a tarantula. And, then, sometime around the age of eight, somebody told me that it was a huntsman spider and that there’s no such thing as tarantulas anyway. Well. That’s all right then.

Huntsman are about as bad as it gets. They hate the rain, so on wet days they go to the nearest dry place, which is sometimes the woodpile, or the bedroom ceiling, or the toilet wall, or the front door, or the car. And they’re big. They’re freakin’ huge monsters of things that make grown men stop the car randomly in the nearest parking space and jump out leaving the door wide open and say they’re going to walk home. Oh. Maybe it was me who said they’d walk home. But it was the grown man next to me who jumped out first. I remember that. We never did find that spider, either.

Funny thing is though now I’ve got kids who are around six and around eight, and sometimes down at their school I hear other kids yelling out to their mums about seeing a trianchula. The myth is passed down from generation to generation.

There’s a few things I used to be frightened of that I later found out didn’t exist: like Transylvania, Count Dracula, Vampire bats, and tarantulas. Life feels calmer when you know it’s really only Pennsylvania, fruit bats and huntsman*.

I don’t remember when it was that I discovered that tarantulas actually existed. Probably after the age of fifteen when I saw the movie Arachnophobia. Do you remember that one? I’m NOT going to describe it here. Needless to say that if I’d known then what I know now I would have been looking for ways to exit the planet and quick smart, too.

Tarantulas are real.

And not only that, I find out a few days ago that they’re not confined to the South American jungle, but that they’ve disregarded all common sense and live in California as well. California, USA. That very and self-same California that I will be actually standing on in fifteen short weeks. No longer the-other-side-of-the-world, but under my feet.**

I had a huntsman spider on my leg once. Crawling up the inside of my jeans, on my actual skin. I learned a valuable lesson that day: sometimes the best thing for people is to have the worst thing happen. Something unexpected occurs: you cope.

We are stronger (and at the same time more fragile) than we think we are.

I might pack a very large can of fly-spray though. You know…just in case.

 

*I know NOW, okay? Yes, even Transylvania and Vampire bats are real. Except I don’t think those things go together. Although I could be wrong.

**I’m assured by my friends who live there that I WON’T be seeing any tarantulas. So far I believe them. Although they could be wrong, too.